23. Sandman Joe

                                              No. 23.
                                        Sandman Joe
       The Ballad says as sung at the Anacreontic Society. This was a society club held at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand, by Gentlemen.

Oh, the other day, As Sandman Joe, 
     Up Holborn Hill was jogging,
His raw boned steed,1 it scarce could go,
     But still the dog kept flogging,
His raw boned steed scarce fit for the crows,
     Just starved to death could scarce go
Whilst gallows Joe his rump he rubb’d 
     And roaring cried  Why heres you
            Lilly white sand. O. —Why
           here’s your lilly, lilly, lilly,
            lilly white sand. O.  

Scarce far he’d gone to sell his sand
     Twas near a neighbouring alley
When turning of his head about,
     He spied his flash girl sally;2
His raw boned steed, scarce fit for the crows
     Could scarce stand, when he cried wo-o!
But to keep him up his rump he rubb’d
             and roaring cried white
                  sand. O. — Why  &c.

He star’d awhile, then turn’d his quid,3
     Why, blast you, Sall, I loves you!
And for to prove what I have said,
     This night I’ll soundly fuck you.
Why then says Sall, my hearts at rest
     If what you say you’ll stand to;
His brawny hands her bubbies prest 
      And roaring cried, white sand. O
             Why here’s,  &c  &c.

Said Sall to Joe, where shall we go,
To get some gin to warm us?
Why blast you to St Giles’s pound,4
For there the gin won’t harm us
            His raw bon’d steed  &c.

When to St Giles’s they had got,
     They made themselves quite merry;
They five times fill'd drain'd the quartern pot,5
     With glorious gin so cherry6
                His raw boned  &c.

O then they kiss’d, and then shook fist,7
My dearest Joe I know you;
     As sound a dog as ever piss’d
This night I’ll doss with Joey,8
Then away they went so well with hearts content,
     To play the game you all know
         While gallows Joe he wag’d his
           arse, and roaring cried–
     white sand O. —  Why here y heres
     your lilly lilly lilly – lil-ly – li-l-ly
      white— sand — Oh!

It was usually for a long time on Saturday night — sung in an open space at the Back of St Clement in the Strand x x at the front of an alehouse door call’d the Crooked Billet. By two women who used to sham dying away as they concluded the song – amidst roars of Laughter.


Editor's Notes

1. Raw boned steed = thin horse (sand sellers were usually depicted with donkeys carrying their sand, so "steed" here is a euphemism)

2. Flash Girl = prostitute, with the additional implication of a fun-loving pleasure seeker

3. Turn'd his quid = chewed his tobacco

4. St Giles's pound = A cattle pound in St Giles's Circus, which housed animals being brought from the north. It lay at the intersection of Tottenham Court Rd., Oxford Street and High Street of St. Giles's. (See also Jack Chance)

5. Quartern pot = A pot measuring a quarter of a pint

6. cherry = Presumably cheery.

7. shook fist = came to an agreement

8. doss with = sleep with

Download This Song


A version of this ballad was published as a score by Thomas Skillern, which noted it was performed at the Anacreontic Society, which met at the Crown and Anchor. An early broadside can be found in the Bodleian under the title “Lily White Sand Ho!”. A later version was printed by William Pratt in Birmingham under the title “Sandman Joe the St Giles’s Pet!”. It was published in a number of songsters including Paddy Whack’s Bottle Companion (1791), and Jemmy Yates’s Pills to Excite Mirth and Good Humour (1798). Later it appeared in Duncombe’s The Lummy Chaunter (1828).

It seems likely that the song was based on an earlier cantata called “The Sandman’s Wedding” that was published in The Buck’s Companion (c.1766), The Humours of London (c1770), The Apollo (1772), The Festival of Momus (1780), The Buck’s Delight (1780), and The Charms of Cheerfulness or the Merry Songster’s Companion (1783)

The setting for this ballad, as with many ballads, is St Giles in London. It features a poor sand seller and his “flash girl” (prostitute) Sal, who drink gin before going to bed to “play the game you all know”. It’s notable for its use of flash vocabulary, but also for the performance spaces that Place records. These spaces include the area at the back of St Clement Danes Church in the Strand, outside an alehouse called the “Crooked Billet” where two women used to draw crowds with their performance. But Place also notes that it was performed at the Anacreontic Society which met in the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand. Though only a few yards from one another these two venues were worlds away in terms of social class, so Place provides compelling evidence of a vital scene of cross-class mixing.


Further Reading:

Ian Newman, “Civilizing Taste: ‘Sandman Joe,’ the Bawdy Ballad and Metropolitan Improvement” Eighteenth-Century Studies 48.4 (2015): 437-456.






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